Over the weekend I had the opportunity to visit Pensacola Beach, Florida. Stay away. It’s not that its a bad place, of course. It’s just that, several years back it was a pretty laid back community and not very busy. You could go out to the beach and for 50 yards in either direction there was no one there (take that, Myrtle Beach!).
But, since the BP spill a few years back, part of their lawsuit was an advertisement campaign that showed people what a great place Pensacola was to visit. Now, its slightly more crowded. Not nearly as bad as some other beaches (take that, Myrtle Beach!) but busier than it once was.
My child was down there visiting relatives, and I had to go pick her up. I have been interested in kayaking for a little while, especially while talking with some other hikers.
See, hiking in the south in the summer just sucks. I’m NOT a summer hiker. BUT – boating gives you an alternative. You can trade fighting off ticks, poison ivy, and rattlesnakes for fighting off mosquitos, water moccasins, and the brain-eating amoeba. Plus, you’re guaranteed to have a ready supply of water around you at all times. So, I asked a few people about boats, and even considered getting one of those cheapy walmart Kayaks at one point. I asked my father where he gained his knowledge of boats, and what would be a good starting place, since he had an ocean kayak.
He said, in a nutshell “You can take mine”. It’s only a 10 hour drive to Pensacola from my house, so we headed down there, not only to pick up the kid (who stays with grandpa a little bit every summer), but to get a boat. I had Friday and Monday off, so 10 hours in the car either way, for 2 days at a great beach with family and a free place to stay, was well worth it. It was hot. Damn Hot. I just got back from Denver, and Pensacola was about the same temperature but more humid. So it felt hot. And there were a lot less people smoking weed in Pensacola.
My daughter said that the previous week there were a lot of jellyfish, but this week the jellyfish were gone and the seaweed had come in. Thus the water looked REALLY green, and it felt like swimming through a big glass of extra-pulp orange juice. But the water was nice and cool.
Some people preferred to stay out of the water. Stand-up paddle boarding is very popular here, even on the ocean. The two days we were there, the water was really calm, like a nice lake, except right by the shore line where there were small 1-2 foot waves. As always, we looked for shark teeth but found squat.
The usual white beaches were tinged with green snot. The best way to get away from the seaweed was to go out to the sandbar, the light green section at the far right of the picture below, where the water was almost clear. It was a bit of a swim, not too bad but still – its the ocean and there are sharks and risk of rip currents, so we came back in pretty quickly.
So, after discussing and planning the boat move for two days, we finally got the thing onto the car and strapped it down. If you’ve never seen an engineer working out a problem in front of you, its an interesting experience. We thought about aerodynamics, drag, where the physics would be acting on the car and finally came up with a system.
Then we realized the suitcases wouldn’t go in the back since we couldn’t raise the tailgate. I have a Toyota Rav-4 with a lift gate with a weird spoiler thing on it. Maybe its a roof for the back window, I don’t know, but it stuck up too far to raise the rear gate with the Kayak on the car. We got everything situated and it looked really strange. The Kayak itself is an 18 foot tandem touring boat, designed for rivers and even the ocean, I think. It’s only 73 pounds, but a bit unwieldy for one person. We wound up stuffing the suitcases and other beach detritus into the car through the back seat.
Thanks to the added drag and giant boat on the car acting like some weird sail, I had to drive slower than normal. The trip home took 13 hours (with a 1 hour mandatory stop at Olive Garden for late lunch and re-trimming the boat and straps) That’s a LONG time to be in a car, but thanks to the slower drive I saved on some gas, I think. The car just started getting squirrely above 70mph. For the first time, ever, I did the speed limit the whole way home.
Once home, getting the boat off the car proved a bit more of a challenge, without my father to help. I wound up backing up to the back porch, which, incidentally, is as high as the roof of the car. I laid an extension ladder from the top step of the porch to the car, Mount Everest Sherpa Style. After throwing a blanket over the ladder, I simply slid the boat off onto the porch. It needs a little work, but the parts should all be here this weekend.
The only issue left: I can’t take the porch with me to the lake. I’m designing a wood rack with hinged extensions so I can fold out a simple ramp, push the boat onto the car, and then remove and fold the ramp by pulling hinge pins. The blue below is the car luggage rack. Hopefully this weekend will be a good time to work all of this out. I was supposed to go hiking, but its going to be either: Hot as Balls, or: Raining. Either one is not great for hiking, so it looks like I’ll be playing engineer a bit myself.